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Special report: New infection control standards call for high-tech approaches

by Loren Bonner , DOTmed News Online Editor
This story first appeared in the July 2012 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News

Today, hand sanitizer dispensers are familiar to anyone who’s visited a hospital in the last few years. In most cases, if these identifiable, easy-to-use devices aren’t inside a patient’s room, they can be located right outside the door. Universally referred to as “gelling in” and “gelling out,” a caregiver is supposed to sanitize their hands upon entering and exiting a patient’s room.

The reason for the sanitizer’s ubiquity is simple: getting providers to clean their hands between contact with patients has been proven time and again to be an effective means to reduce health care-associated infections (HAIs), a leading cause of death in the U.S.

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New standards
In fact, the Joint Commission changed its hand hygiene standard as a result of a project the Commission’s Center for Transforming Healthcare developed in 2008. Previously, the standard called for hospitals to demonstrate hand hygiene compliance at a rate greater than 90 percent. But findings from the project, published in 2010, proved that was difficult to do. Today, the Joint Commission asks that hospitals provide proof that the facilities have a plan in place to improve compliance.

Four of the eight hospitals that participated in this study to improve hand hygiene capitalized on real time locating technology to play detective. This is where Michigan-based Versus Technology Inc.—a real time locating systems company — entered the picture. For the study, Versus worked with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California and Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland to monitor hand washing using its RTLS technology.

“We made a preliminary decision with the Joint Commission that we could just focus on gelling of inbound compliance and then compliance coming out,” says Henry Tenarvitz, chief of intellectual property at Versus.

The World Health Organization has identified the Five Moments for Hand Hygiene: Before patient contact, before an aseptic task, after body fluid exposure risk, after patient contact and after contact with patient surroundings. Tenarvitz says to address all of those points technologically was a big challenge, which is why he set up the Versus’ system on the universal “gelling in” and “gelling out” policy for patient caregivers. Health care workers wear a Versus real time location system badge that’s activated when it’s triggered. It picks up a signal and reports the activation from hand motion to the dispenser — also tagged with Versus technology — and reports the activation to the facility’s system.

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